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Welcome to the University of Idaho’s Distance and Extended Education program, where we are committed to offering innovative and quality student-centered online classes that are both challenging and engaging.
Are Online Classes for Me?
Well, . . . Yes.
If you have never taken an online course before, you are probably wondering how they differ from face-to-face classes and how those differences might affect your learning style and academic success. That’s a valid concern, and sure, taking on online class is a little different than taking a face-to-face class. However, you will generally discover that the same qualities that lead to success in traditional classes—like enthusiasm, self-discipline, critical thinking, creativity, and solid communication skills—will also lead to success in online courses.
Having said that . . .
. . . the differences between face-to-face and online types of classes are significant enough that you should be aware of some additional skills and qualities you might need to develop. For instance:
Time Management Skills
Online classes usually require a bit more self-discipline and planning on your part. On the up side, since there’s no regular 7:30am meeting thrice a week, you won’t have to drag yourself out of bed for class after Viking Night at Lothar’s. Bonus. However, remember that with great flexibility comes great responsibility. Online classes require just as much effort and time as other classes, so do not take them for granted. When students do poorly in online classes, it is usually because they have done a lousy job of time management and allowed deadlines to sneak up on them. We recommend that you schedule regular times—preferably daily—throughout the week to work on your online assignments.
A Willingness to Learn and Ask Questions about Technology
And then there’s all this technology stuff. To succeed in an online class, it is imperative that you have regular access to a computer and a solid broadband Internet connection. It also helps if you have at least a rudimentary acquaintance with Web browsers and such processes as uploading and downloading files.
But you certainly do not need to be a full-on geek to do well in online classes. The technologies we use in our courses—like blogs and wikis—might seem a little daunting at first, but they’re pretty user-friendly and, if you run into trouble, most of your questions can be answered by your instructor, our support pages, or the UI Help Desk. A prior knowledge of the technology used in classes is less important than a willingness to learn and—just as importantly—a willingness to ask questions of your instructors and classmates when the learning just won’t come. Communication is essential in online learning and if you are willing to put in the effort, you will soon be:
Communicating with Web Tools
While online classes typically include just as much (if not more) faculty-to-student and student-to-student interaction as face-to-face classes, these interactions are mediated by technology. Rather than face-to-face meetings with your teacher, you might interact through blogs or Web conferencing sessions; instead of meeting with a classmates in the UI Commons to plan an in-class presentation, you might meet on discussion boards or via Skype to prepare a collaborative wiki project. In other words, online classes do not minimize interactions between students and learners—they just configure them differently.
Though this may take some getting used to, consider that you are probably using these same kinds of technologies in many other areas of your life already. If you are communicating through email, posting on bulletin boards, keeping up with friends on Facebook, skyping your parents, or raiding with your World of Warcraft guild, you are using pretty much the same technologies you will be engaging with in your online classes—you’re probably just not used to using them in an educational setting.
On the other hand, if you are not using these technologies, an online class is a great place to learn them. The proliferation of these technologies in the classroom is mirrored by their increased use in the workplace, and the chance to practice and develop these 21st-century skills is a valuable educational experience in itself.
Here at the University of Idaho, we are dedicated to your success as a student, whether on-campus or online. If you bring dedication and a willingness to learn and communicate to your online classes, you’ll find your distance education experience to be just as enlightening and exciting as your more traditional classes.